Browsing Category Reviews

The Summer Hits – Beaches and Canyons: 1992 – 1996

Its always nice to dig deeper into the origin of some longtime favorites. The Summer Hits were an early band of brothers Brent and Darren Rademaker, who among their litany of underrated bands (Further, Shadowland) also each split to independently form two major arms of early aughts alt-country; with Brent going on to form Beachwood Sparks and Darren going on to form The Tyde. Here they’re decidedly less amber hued than they’d become at their peak. The Summer Hits fell more in line with The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s ties to gauzy rock and Loop’s faded grind, though there’s still an occasional bit of jangle here and there. Mostly though its rife with a mid 90’s mix of distortion and dissonance that echoes the sentiments of paisley and shoegaze that came before them.

The band released no album during their tenure, only a handful of 7″s on labels like Christmas, Small-Fi, Silver Girl and Volvolo. They also released a split on 1000 Guitar Mania, who would release a Further EP along with E6 staples like Dressy Bessy, The Apples In Stereo and Of Montreal. This collection was put together for Record Store Day by Medical Records and, in true fashion of the band’s history, it hasn’t flown off the shelves. But most people’s loss is a boon to those whose local stores wouldn’t think of stocking this nugget. The label’s still got a stash and its, along with that Bardo Pond release, one of the rare reasons to celebrate the gluttony of a one day vinyl barrage. Lots to explore here. The production’s rough but the riffs are fine.




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The Cosmic Dead

This is one of those albums with a disconnect to the US that makes it frustratingly hard to obtain and therefore, pretty much glossed over in general. Glasgow space rock unit The Cosmic Dead have been buring ozone for quite a few years but its been since their 2014 album Easterfaust since they’ve had a full runner in the works. They’ve followed that beast up amiably with Rainbowhead, clocking in with four improvised pieces that push the needle to burn with amp frizzle fry and, locked bass groves and synth warbles that put them well over into cosmic territory.

The band works its way towards the epics at the end of the tunnel, dipping into the psych swirl on opener “Human Sausage” and its mellower companion “Skye Burial” Then they tumble full barrel into the 13 and 18 minute cappers that show them at full strength, knives out, and bowing at the pulpit of Hawkwind and Amon Düül. Its these two that make the whole ticket worthwhile, they writhe and retch with an internal heat that radiates out like heatsick fever from the speakers. The lock groove is hypnotic and intense and its hard to figure out why your breath is gone by the closing notes of “Inner C,” but then they follow it with the squirming face melt of the title track, “Rainbowhead,” which burns it all to the ground, leaving only some singed twigs to tell the tale of The Cosmic Dead’s campaign of fury. These are not an easy commodity to come by Stateside, but well worth the pursuit and for any Space Rock heads out there, a pretty essential parcel.


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Zig Zags

Zig Zags are back with a follow up and its fodder for those that loved the first. If you were a metal kid that fell in with the punks, then every inch of Running Out of Red is prime listening. The album is raw, but with a knife edge. Producer Chris Woodhouse gives the album a spit sheen that glints off the jacket studs of the heaviest head in the pit. At its heart, though, the album is soaked in beer and sweat and denim and something tells me that the L.A. crew would have it no other way. There’s plenty who pack in the heavy riffs, especially in Castle Face’s ever expanding roster, but Zig Zags are bringing the fiery solos and and the raised fist rumble like no one else in that stable.

The genius of Running Out Of Red is that every song seems like it could soundtrack a chase sequence in Maximum Overdrive. The band’s been to the alter and made an offering and now they’re just bringing back unburdened garage metal for those who want speed and spit and to just not think for 30 minutes of unadulterated shred. I can practically smell the studio in each take, and that grease caked, leather punch has been sorely lacking of late. If this year’s general turmoil is any indication of entropic slide into the void, Zig Zags seem like a pretty good soundtrack for the chaos. Note perfect to burn it all down.




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Kikagaku Moyo

I’ve had this one on rotation ever since it arrived and, even as a big fan of Kikagaku Moyo’s past catalog, its the most entrancing work they’ve done yet. The band’s work to date always found a delicate balance between subtlety and psychedelics, but here they tip the scales much further towards pastoral than ever before and the delicate touches pool their sound with a gorgeous coat of sheen. “Kogarashi,” the first taste of the album that slipped away early this year, still remains a highlight, winding fluid, traveling guitar passages with the lush cool air of cave echoed vocals. The band still pushes the amps into the fire now and again, but in the mold of some of the best simmering psychedlics, the moments that they hold back glow a bit brighter than the rest.

House In The Tall Grass shows the band’s familiarity with the softer side of the ’60s, and while there are notable touches of Japanese luminaries The Apryl Fool, Jacks and even later greats like Ghost, the band has called on a less obvious touchstone for inspiration, Bruce Langhorne’s soundtrack to The Hired Hand. If you’re not familiar, the reissue on Scissor Tail is a must for fans of country psych and acoustic guitar, not to mention psychedelic ’70s soundtracks. And though its more in line with Fahey, its not a stretch to see that its gentle ramble has a thumbprint here. The whole album has a subtle grey fog around it. Its got a cold and damp quality that echoes that lonesome traveling feeling.

Though don’t let that assessment fool you, the dampness and loneliness is by no means a deterrent, they are a celebration of sweet melancholy and Kikagaku Moyo is nailing the emotion on this album. The gorgeous folds of of House In The Tall Grass hang heavy and when the album does light those fires, they burn all that much brighter in contrast, then they’re all swept out in the morning by the gentle hum of closer, “Cardigan Song.” Its one of the best I’ve heard this year for sure and getting better with each listen.



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Abjects – Double Blind

London Trio Abjects follow on their first couple of EPs with a 7″ for NY’s Greenway records. Dual language, twin carbine action that blasts through garage pop with a kind of chaotic energy that’s one part beat denim dine n’ dash and one part amphetamine charged supermarket sweep. “Double Blind” is a soundtrack for hi-jinks, rough and frayed and spitting with garage punk energy that’s wrecked on Pez and ready to run all night. The A-side definitely reminds me of Pega Monstro’s hot charged delivery and the two would make for a scorchin’ double bill anytime. The flip takes the tack to English but doesn’t let up on the gas soaked fumes that haunt the opener. Both tracks make for pretty hard punch to the gut. Can’t imagine how this doesn’t burn live. They just wrapped up some US dates but hopefully they’ll be back around again to spread some love.



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Free Time

The debut from Free Time, the Melbourne via NYC via now Melbourne again band surrounding songwriter Dion Nania, was a breezy bit of jangle-pop that hinted at the sadness below. On his follow-up, Nania digs the songs further into that inherit sadness, feeling rooted in an aimless wander quality that’s both lost and reflective. Begun with Jarvis Taveniere here in the States with his NY band and finished back home in Australia with a new band comprised of friends from Twerps, Totally Mild and Terrible Truths, the record is tighter than its predecessor, and its easy to see how some of the current US strummers; Real Estate, Kurt Vile, etc have made their mark on Nania’s own take on the jangle formula.

Flecked with some soft rock sax and buoyant keys, the album’s a fuller realization of Nania’s pop worldview, not as threadbare as the first, but still feeling like its a world away from overstuffed indie-pop. There’s space that hangs in the songs here, adding to the shaggy sheen that gives In Search of Free Time a presence, humming in your ear like a good friend. There’s actually something in the vocal delivery on songs like “Who Owns The Moon?” that remind me quite nicely of Hunx’s stripped pop curio Hairdresser Blues. Like that record, this one has a confessional quality to it and the feeling of listening to Nania letting us in on his bittersweet sighs is one of a willing shoulder rather than observant therapist. We’re there with him and we all feel his pain, and share a beer in solidarity. Its a big step up from Free Time’s debut and one that’s grown some real legs around here.




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Fur – Find What You Like & Let It Kill You

In the glut of Bandcamp explorations its possible to stumble onto one of those sorely missed nuggets of the past and almost miss them. In this case I’d wandered into Conquest of Noise’s den, home to those well loved Dreamtime LPs amid a few other Aussie newbies. I’d originally mistaken Fur for a band a band doing such a good job of echoing the 90’s that it caused a quick double take. As luck would have it, they not only do a good job at echoing the sounds and sentiments of the era, they were doing a fine job of living in it as well. The band originally released this EP, the crown jewel of their short discography, on Fellaheen in 1994. To most Americans that label is not a household name but to those on the the other axis this is their domestic home to Pavement, Superchunk, Luscious Jackson and Guided By Voices among others. So the band wasn’t exactly in light company.

The EP hits hard with a blast of fuzz and flannel that’s got a bit of Veruca Salt for good measure and a definite taste for Nirvana and Mudhoney’s acerbic spit and thick riffs. The band became hometown heroes around the release of this EP and followed it up with solid torrent of singles and EPs leading up to 1997’s The Betty Shakes LP, also for Fellaheen. The EP has been released digitally now but it’ll find its way to vinyl for the first time later on in the year. This is one of those releases that, without the grace of the Internet’s small world syndrome you’d probably only have heard if you were an avid zine reader or Oz collector from way back. Its good to see things like this eking their way back into the world. Your ’90s mixtape just got a lot happier.




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Spectrum Control

Dewey Mahood has earned himself a place a the psych warrior roundtable and then some, serving in Eternal Tapestry, Plankton Wat, Gärden Söund and Edibles over the years. Now he sets off on a new endeavor in the solo vein. Tacking a different wind than previous (pseudo)solo adventure Edibles’ junkyard dub; Spectrum Control is built on a midnight shift grind of junkshop beats scotch taped to 4 AM cigarette curls of guitar that wind their way around buzzing organs, dipped into the last grit coffee of the evening. The record has a bloodshot quality that taps an energy on the line between the nervy edge of exhausted and exhilarated. Mahood’s not off base in the least by calling it twilight pop. Its music for the eternal wanderers, the streetlight scions.

There’s certainly a feeling that Mahood is finding his footing within the framework. The album’s got a rough charm about it, but I’m hoping this gets a little room to breath and more shelf space down the line. I was a fan of Mahood’s Edibles and this has some crossover appeal for those on the fringes of psych’s heady hang. But for now, this is a pretty strong jump out of the gate.




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King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

King Gizz have blessed us with quite a few years of prime psych around here, rolling through a tumble of incarnations – stomping blues, acoustic pop, savage psychedelic storm and cowboy poetry. They’re reviving the storm for Nonagon Infinity, recorded at NY’s famed Daptone studios and over a year in the making; an eternity for a band on a two to three album a year schedule. The polishing has paid off as Nonagon rolls through speakers like a battering ram of rhythm and fury, bringing down a metric ton of squall and slashing at any who might doubt that such a prolific outfit could have this much quality material on lock at all times.

The record runs rampant with a thematic punch, a pounding repeated guitar herald and chant of “Nonagon Infinity opens the door.” The theme plays into the band’s touch of occultism that’s risen in some of their past videos and here they mix that with a doomsday prophecy and lyrics that hint at mankind’s ravaging of the planet. Most environmental screeds don’t burn to the touch like this one does, but King Gizz manage to make the looming atrocities of man’s greed seem both harrowing and thrilling at the same time, like being strapped into a George Miller setpiece and shot at the speed of sound across a desert flatland powered by harmonica screech and a double kick pounce.

What could make the package more enticing? The whole album runs on an infinite loop if you knock it to repeat, feeding back into itself like a lysergic ouroboros with a furious appetite for destruction. It goes without saying that this was highly anticipated but in the wake of its scorched path, this is going to be a hard one for anyone to touch as album of the year.


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Bardo Pond – AcidGuruPond

I’m not always one for RSD releases. For every amazing collaboration or clutch reissue, there are usually a hundred releases that are thrown in bins for the sake of pressing up needless nostalgia. Personally, I don’t ever need a reason to be coaxed into a record store, either, let alone wait in line for one. However, Bardo Pond’s release this year warrants some true praise. The long beloved drone/psych unit teamed up with Acid Mothers Temple and Guru Guru, both of which collaborated themselves on a solid string of records, including the spark that set it all off, 2007’s Psychedelic Navigator. Adding the Pond to the mix only makes this psychic stew even heavier, swampier and more psyionically gelatinous.

The album opens with a bit of pastoral psych before it moves into heavier tones and the ozone burn of AMT and Guru Guru can both be felt. Its not as slung with rhythmic chug as one might expect given that Guru Guru is involved, rather the combo seems to be coasting on melted vibes that roll through floor puddled zone out to the clash of free jazz ramble (specifically “Orange”). By the time “Red” rolls around the record drops into noisier territory, smoldering in full on cinder-psych territory, uncomfortable in any position and twisting to break free of its constraints. A damn fine outburst from all involved and Fire has put it together in a gorgeous package as well (RSD, gotta have colors). If your local store is out, you should buy something else from them and then head to Discogs. There are still some moral souls there selling it for around retail.

Some copies available HERE.

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